Title: The Chinese Opera: Arias from Eight Peking Opera; Fu Hsing Opera Academy, Taiwan. Label: Lyrichord. Format: LP. Catalog#: LLST 7212. Track: A-5.

Title: demo: Chinese xiaoluo; Wu Baofu, xiaoluo. Format: DV.

Contextual Associations

The xiaoluo is a metal gong idiophone of the Han Chinese. Luo is the generic Han term for gong, and xiaoluo (‘small gong’) is smaller in size in comparison to the other gong (see daluo) with which it is played in its primary context of usage, Beijing opera (see 'Jingju (Beijing Opera) Ensemble from China'). Its sound is considered to have a feminine quality and so it is used to accompany the movements of ladies and scholars in Beijing opera performances. Luo in general are also used occasionally in outdoor religious processions and, less frequently, in instrument ensemble music. The xiaoluo, along with other traditional gongs and cymbals, has also been incorporated into the percussion section of the modern Chinese orchestra.


The xiaoluo is made from a copper, zinc and tin alloy called xiangtong (resonant copper). Its shallow rim is turned back at 90 degrees. The convex face of this gong rises gradually from the rim to its center. An unpadded slip of wood is used as a beater (not pictured, but seen in video clip).

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The player of the xiaoluo holds the rim of the gong with the fingertips of his left hand so that face of the gong is vertical. The edge of the beater, which is held in the right hand, is thrust against the center of the face. The pitch produced by this action rises suddenly, providing a distinctive contrast to the descending pitch that is characteristic of the daluo with which it is paired. In addition to accompanying the stage movement of certain character types in Beijing opera productions, it is also sounded in combination with the daluo, jingbo, paiban, and bangu to perform labeled rhythmic patterns called luogudianzi (‘gong and drum rhythmic patterns’), which are used to accompany dramatic stage action such as flamboyant entrances, fights, and acrobatics (listen to audio clip).


Early forms of luo are known to have existed in China during the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE). (Thrasher 1984, p. 242) Little has changed in the form of the xiaoluo or in the form of luo in general relative to the early forms of these instruments.

Bibliographic Citations

Liang, Mingyue. 1985. Music of the Billion: An Introduction to Chinese Musical Culture. New York: Heinrichshofen.

Thrasher, Alan R. 1984. “Luo [lo].” NGDMI v.2: 546-547.

________. 2000. Chinese Musical Instruments. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Instrument Information


Continent: Asia

Region: East Asia

Nation: China

Formation: Han

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

111.241.11 idiophone--bossed percussion vessel gong, flat gong (with flange), and intermediate types

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: plate - contoured with folded-over rim

Sound objects per instrument: one

Resonator design: sonorous object itself is a general resonating space

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: striking - direct

Sound exciting agent: beater/s - stick/s with unpadded tip/s

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Pitch of sound produced: inflected pitch

Sound modification: none


8.5 in. diameter

Primary Materials


Entry Author

Roger Vetter, Toby Austin